Equity at NFF

NFF is committed to making the community finance sector more equitable.
Equity at NFF

NFF is committed to supporting organizations led by and serving people of color as we listen, learn, and grow.

Click here for a list of organizations you can support in the fight for justice and equity.

Communities know their own needs and should be able to make decisions about their future. Yet many communities of color and organizations led by people of color don’t have this opportunity. They have faced decades of disinvestment because of deeply entrenched institutional barriers in how money flows.

As an organization whose primary business is to provide capital and financial advice, NFF is best able to address inequity by helping community-centered organizations gain control of financial resources.

We acknowledge that our access to financial and social capital, and the fact that we were white-led for our first 40 years, gives us privilege that many organizations on the front lines fighting inequity do not have. We will use our position to advocate for change in the nonprofit sector to build a more equitable nonprofit financial system and actively support grassroots organizations in championing their own needs.

Our aim is for every aspect of our work to advance racial equity. This will require a variety of efforts, some already in place, to evaluate growth opportunities to ultimately guide us to a new way of working with our clients and within our organization.

In March of 2020, we formed our Social Innovation and Equity Council (SIEC). Led by Lacy Serros, the SIEC works to ensure that our past shortcomings are acknowledged and addressed, and NFF’s commitment to equity is operationalized in our internal and external work going forward. Read more about the SIEC here.

Equity Commitment

We have continuously refined and strengthened our commitment to racial equity. We engaged in organization-wide discussions to define what equity means to us and created an Equity Commitment, which asserts the centrality of racial equity in our work and organization: it articulates our beliefs and how those beliefs translate into actions that drive how we approach strategic decisions. Our beliefs are: 

  • Prosperity is defined as the condition of being successful or thriving. We believe all communities should have equitable opportunities to prosper. Yet intentional disinvestment and the inequitable flow of capital driven by systemic racism often deny communities of color the resources needed to build wealth and well-being.  
  • Nonprofits build economic opportunity, wealth, community power, and well-being through vital jobs, services, and organizing. They must have the resources necessary to do this.  
  • We work in service of community-led and community-centered nonprofits, which are best positioned to meet and exceed community aspirations.  
  • NFF is both a nonprofit and a community development financial institution. We have a responsibility to use our position as part of the privileged financial system to support organizations in accessing capital and other resources to build wealth and well-being in the communities they serve – and to challenge the systemic racism that denies those opportunities.  
  • We help organizations navigate the racism in the financial system, while also working to make that system more equitable. And, we value and at times support the efforts of those that work to create new pathways and alternatives to how money flows.  

We do this by: 

  • Countering the inequitable flow of capital by providing access to capital and resources needed to build community wealth and well-being—especially in communities of color. 
  • Investing in the capacity of nonprofits to deliver community-led and -responsive solutions 
  • Amplifying the voices of nonprofit leaders of color and joining forces with clients and partners to advocate for more equitable, less racist funding practices 
  • Prioritizing trust-building and relationships by first listening deeply and then working in support of community plans  
  • Using the feedback that we get from our nonprofit clients to continuously evolve our services 
  • Striving to make more of our services accessible to more nonprofits 
  • Hiring leadership and staff with lived experience in the communities and organizations we support 
  • Continuously incorporating and improving Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) principles in our internal operations, policies, and practices, and committing to create a culture of care. 

Our Latest Work

We are proud that our work is mission-driven and guided by our values. While not all of it is specifically equity-focused, here are examples of ways we are advancing racial equity that represent our growing commitment to this value.

We partnered with fellow CDFI Capital Impact Partners on CFRE, a collaborative designed to identify ways CDFIs can refine or develop products and processes to advance health justice. As part of CFRE, we examined the capacity-building support and capital products that can advance positive outcomes and move the needle on health and racial inequities in communities of color.
Administering loans from the NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund and other no-interest loan funds, which included many organizations led by people of color and working on social justice; Offering Spanish-language COVID-19 response tools; Publishing pieces about the need for equity in COVID-19 response in The Hill, Nonprofit Quarterly, and more.
CCFY’s model has been so effective that it has grown rapidly. But in the nonprofit sector, growth comes with financial challenges. In 2017, CCFY was awarded a 5-year, $10.3-million contract from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to operate a “Youth Opportunity Hub” in Harlem. Many nonprofits that receive such contracts are burdened with late payments that leave the organization unable to meet expenses. Executive director Rev. Rubén Austria said: “It was crazy to get this large amount of money and still be struggling to make payroll and fending off vendors. We could not get a loan from traditional banks because we rent all of our space and don’t have collateral. When NFF provided a $1-million line of credit, it was a lifeline.”
Through a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, NFF advised TTO on their strategic plan from 2017 to 2020. Co-producing executive director Harold Steward said that in addition to technical expertise on finances and management, NFF’s advisors offered key cultural competence. “It was important to us to dismantle systems of white supremacy in our own governance. We chose to move toward a collaborative leadership and decision-making model to amplify diverse perspectives in our community. NFF’s advisers researched models alternative to the status quo to make a plan that worked for our values of liberation,” said Steward.
When hiring, our Talent & Training team casts a wide net, reaching out to several networks that represent candidates of varied racial backgrounds. We created written and visual identity style guides to help us communicate with an equity lens and avoid stigmatizing language and visuals. Our operations team has developed a process and standards for increasing contracting with diverse vendors. We organized employee resource groups to develop a shared understanding of social justice issues.
In 2020, we launched the Where We Go From Here video series that asks leaders of nonprofits and philanthropy how they’re blazing new trails for racial equity and exploring new funding models that put power in the hands of those closest to the problems. NFF authored a report for the California Pay for Success project reflecting on how outcomes-based funding can advance racial equity. We also wrote articles and created resources that examine the intersection of health and equity. Antony Bugg-Levine and Rev. Rubén Austria co-authored an article about defunding the police to shift power to communities. Antony also co-authored a piece with James Gutierrez about how – with capital – communities of color can lead our economic revival.

We collaborate with many to help advance a more equitable society.

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